Robben Fleming, the University of Michigan's ninth president, was born on December 18, 1916 in Paw Paw, Illinois. He received his baccalaureate degree from Beloit College in 1938 and his law degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1941.
He specialized in labor law and industrial relations, and went on to become a noted arbitrator. After graduating from law school, he served for six years with government agencies and the United States Army. Thereafter he returned to the University of Wisconsin and served as director of the Industrial Relations Center. He left Madison in 1952 to head the University of Illinois' Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations.
In 1958 he joined the Illinois law faculty and remained until he was named chancellor of the University of Wisconsin in 1964.
Three years later he was chosen as president of the University of Michigan and served in that capacity for eleven years.
From 1979 to 1981 he was president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
He then returned to Ann Arbor and taught one course each year in the Law School until he became Professor Emeritus in 1985. After Harold Shapiro stepped down as president of the university in 1988, Fleming served as interim president for eight months.
Fleming married his wife, Sally, in 1942. There are three Fleming children: Nancy Jo, James Edmund, and Carolyn Elizabeth.